The socialists private healthcare dilemma.

2015 was a year where I had the misfortune to try out healthcare in France and the UK. I also had the ‘opportunity’ to experience  NHS and private healthcare in the UK.

In France, the service and experience was exceptional; from the doctor that I saw in the clinic on the mountain, through to the ambulance service, the Accident and Emergency unit and the ward that I was on. I had first class service and care – at a cost.

When I was first x -rayed in the mountain clinic I collapsed and was put on a trolley; the doctor put his arm around George and ushered him into a side room.

‘You have had a very big shock sir, sit down’, he said. George was impressed with the consideration that he was being shown as it wasn’t him who was injured! Then the doctor slid his bill across the table – 350 euros – and it became apparent that the doctor, with his pigeon english, had chosen the wrong tense. What he meant to say was ‘you’re in for a big shock sir, sit down’.

The ambulance stopped at the cashpoint on the way to hospital so I could pay for it – yes really.

In Accident and Emergency I had every test – X rays, MRI’s all quickly and promptly – and all needing to be paid for.

Yes, the care in France was first class but pricey.

I had some dealings with my GP and one NHS outpatient appointment but the majority of my care in the UK has been private. A beautiful hospital where you are greeted on arrival, ample parking, private en suite room, lovely food, free coffee while you wait to see the consultant and so on. I have been privileged. My first job was working in the NHS and I have always been a staunch supporter, proud of our free healthcare system. A socialist at heart I used the private healthcare provided by the company I worked with for convenience.

In December Max was taken ill and had to have two hospital admissions, one for tonsillitis ( 3 nights) and one for an appendicectomy ( 1 night). Each time Max was admitted via the GP. On the first occasion, we saw the GP at 5pm and by 11:30pm Max was only just on the ward and still waiting for painkillers and antibiotics. He was left sitting in a waiting room in A & E for several hours.


On the second occasion it was decided to operate on Max to remove his appendix. It was the 23rd December and at 5pm he was told he would be taken to theatre in the next couple of hours. At 11.30pm he was told the operation would happen the following day as they were struggling with emergencies. Max finally had the operation 9am Christmas Eve.Naturally we were disappointed as we had been told that he would need to stay in a minimum of 24 hours post surgery and this meant that he would not be home Christmas Day.   However, we didn’t need to  worry as come Christmas Eve afternoon, as the bed situation came under strain, Max was discharged home.

What really struck me about the NHS experience was that the doctors and nurses (and we saw a lot of them) were all friendly, helpful and dedicated but they were all  struggling to keep up with the demand on the NHS. When we saw staff they were fantastic – but they often did not have the equipment or time needed to give the patients the care they needed.

The care in the UK was second class – but free.


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